Thursday, August 05, 2010

Less Than Zero, by Bret Easton Ellis

(pb; 1985: prequel to Imperial Bedrooms)

From the inside flap:

"Set in affluent Los Angeles, it is a raw and powerful portrayal of a generation of young people who have experienced sex, drugs, and dissatisfaction at too early an age. Its narrator, Clay, comes home to Los Angeles for Christmas vacation, following his first trimester at an Eastern college. Trying to make sense of the life left behind, he renews his ties to his old girlfriend, Blair; to Trent, a male model; to Rip, his dealer; and, most tragically, to Julian, Clay's best friend from high school, who has got into trouble with drugs. Clay's holiday turns into a dizzying spiral of desperation that takes him through the rich suburban homes, the relentless parties, the seedy bars, the glitzy rock clubs, and the seamy underworld of pornography and homosexual prostitution. . ."


Clay's stream-of-consciousness narration is a party-till-you-drop nightmare; his first-person present tense POV spans a month, seen through his melancholic, it-all-runs-together senses.

Clay, at eighteen, is at crossroads, like many of his friends -- whom he's felt distant from for years. He's directionless, caught between his deeply-embedded L.A. ennui/self-absorption and his emerging maturity, which has yet to reveal what direction or form it will take for him: between the glitzy boredom of soulless sexual encounters, constant drugs, rotting social bonds, and the blasé reactions of his friends (to daily, small scale horrors and tragedies around them), he's f**ked up.

Ellis's tightly-edited writing immediately immersed this reader into the shallow-life, frazzled mindset of his protagonist. Ellis sprinkles his narrative with shocking amorality and blink-and-you-miss-it cleverness, burying these smart-minded elements in a river of banality (usually conversations) and soundtracking it with an often provocative, takes-you-back Eighties soundtrack.

Check it out.

The film version was released stateside on November 6, 1987.

Andrew McCarthy played Clay. Jami Gertz played Blair. Robert Downey Jr. played Julian. James Spader played Rip.

Anthony Kiedis, lead vocalist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, played "Musician #3" -- he's billed as Cole Dammett. Flea and Jack Irons, Kiedis' bandmates, played "Musician #1" and "Musician #4".

An uncredited Brad Pitt played "Partygoer / Preppy Kid at Fight".

Marek Kanievska directed, from a script by Harley Peyton.

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